Charities, business leaders and disability experts are joining forces to support the hardest to help claimants – such as those on sickness benefits – into a job through the Work Programme.
A new best practice group will help organisations delivering the Work Programme to find the best ways to help tens of thousands of former incapacity benefit claimants, people claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), ex-offenders and other harder to help claimants overcome issues which are stopping them from getting a job.
Minister for Employment Mark Hoban was addressing the first meeting of the group today. It will consider how to ensure the best ways of addressing the particular needs of these claimants are shared between providers, charities and other organisations helping people into work.
Under the Work Programme, organisations are paid by results for getting those at risk of long-term unemployment into long-term work, and can earn up to £14,000 for finding lasting work for the hardest to help participants.
But some welfare-to-work organisations delivering the scheme have much more experience of helping people with significant health issues than others, so the group has been set up to develop a framework so they can all benefit from as much expertise as possible.
Mark Hoban, Minister for Employment, said:
The Work Programme is offering more help than ever before to people with significant barriers keeping them out of work. It’s far better to help them prepare for work than writing them off to a life on benefits.
But we should have no illusions about the scale of the challenge facing us – when they join the Work Programme, Employment and Support Allowance claimants are still some months away from being ready to work and we want to use this time to give them the skills they need and help them prepare to find a job when they’re fit.
I want to make sure that providers learn from each other and use the expertise of the voluntary sector to find the best ways of supporting the hardest to help claimants overcome their barriers and move off benefits and into work.
The group will be chaired independently by Andrew Sells, who has extensive experience in finance and business and is a trustee at Policy Exchange. He said:
The Work Programme can play a vital part in helping people avoid a life of long-term unemployment, but some of the participants face significant barriers which are stopping them from work.
By bringing together this wealth of expertise I hope we can give participants the best chance of overcoming those barriers and being able to find lasting work.
Kirsty McHugh, chief executive of the Employment Related Services Association, said:
ERSA is pleased to support the development of a framework for the sharing of best practice. This group will help providers share expertise in order to boost performance and support the hardest to help individuals on the Work Programme into lasting jobs.
We moved off sickness benefits and into work
After a decade of battling depression, Richard Michelson, 45, is off ESA and back in work. Richard credits the Work Programme for giving him the confidence and support he needed to turn his life around.
Richard worked with one of the organisations that deliver the Work Programme, A4e, to get a viable business plan together for a computer business he’d always dreamed of. In February this year he launched Argo IT.
I admit I had become completely dependent on benefits. I had been on Employment and Support Allowance, and before that Incapacity Benefit, for 10 years.
The idea of having my own computer business was a distant dream, something I never even thought possible.
Getting my first payment for a job was such an amazing feeling. I had always felt guilty, like I didn’t deserve benefits. I hadn’t earned them. I couldn’t hold my head up in public. I was ashamed.
Now I feel worthwhile for the first time in I don’t know how long. I am a different person, confident, able to chat to anyone. Three years ago, I wouldn’t have even been able to talk to someone on the phone. Now I am dealing with customers every day.
Most importantly, I am engaging with my kids. I feel guilty for not being there for so long but I am trying to make up for lost time, and working for myself means I can work from home around them. It is perfect.
Amy Powell, 23, was unemployed for two years due to suffering from depression.
Despite having decent work experience as a nursery nurse and the relevant qualifications on her CV to work at children’s centres, Amy struggled to find employment and wanted extra support and guidance in her quest to land a job.
After being referred to the Government’s Work Programme, where she received dedicated support and training Amy has now found work as a catering assistant in a children’s play centre.
Through tailored one-to-one support, Amy’s confidence increased, her CV got a new look to highlight her transferrable skills, and she was given guidance on the best way to approach job applications, interviews and help to overcome her personal barriers.
I was treated like an individual and not just a number. Everyone went out of their way which gave me the confidence and motivation to find work. The on-going support I’ve received was really friendly and helpful, and I’m extremely happy here – I love it.
Terms of reference for the group are:
- Develop a framework for the sharing of best practice between providers, their supply chains, and external organisations with expertise in supporting claimants into work, in order to drive improvements in performance particularly for harder to help groups like ESA claimants.
- Review the application of Minimum Service Levels, and develop a best practice framework for minimum service levels to help ensure all minimum service levels are transparent and measurable.
- Consider how voluntary and community sector organisations, and national charities, can become better involved in supporting and delivering the Work Programme.
The group includes Work Programme prime contractors, subcontractors, voluntary and community sector organisations, the Employment Related Services Association (Ersa), the Association of the Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO), the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the Skills Funding Agency, Business in the Community and the Business Disability Forum.
Other groups will attend sessions to contribute to particular topics when the group is dealing with them.
It will be chaired independently, by Andrew Sells. Andrew has extensive experience in finance and business, and was until recently the chairman of the Garden Centre Group. He is a trustee at Policy Exchange.
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